The Supreme Court verdict, absolving union finance minister P Chidambaram of any complicity in the spectrum allocation scam, could not have been better timed for the ruling coalition, which is under constant attack by the opposition and the civil society. What is of better consequence is that the verdict can be good for the economy too.
Chidambaram’s shift to the finance ministry was a calculated political risk that the Congress leadership took — hoping that the SC verdict would end the BJP’s attack on him. Initially, the party contemplated continuing with the arrangement of PM holding the finance portfolio at least until the SC gave its ruling. But it was decided after some deliberations that finance ministry needs a full time minister at the earliest, given the challenges that the economy faces, particularly inflation and slowdown. And Chidambaram was the only choice. With the SC absolving him of the accusations, it is only natural that Chidambaram’s focus will solely be on economy.
In the top leadership of the Congress, now there are two people who are comfortable dealing with technical aspects of economy — the PM himself and the finance minister. Both are on the same page on most matters relating to economy.
It is no secret that when Pranab Mukherjee was finance minister, there have been many occasions on which the PM and Chidambaram disagreed with Mukherjee. It is also no secret that several measures adopted by Chidambaram after his return to the finance ministry amounted to reversing decisions made by his predecessor.
With Mukherjee’s exit from the Congress decision-making, others — Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, A K Antony and Ahmad Patel — are of the view that Chidambaram should be given a free hand to deal with the economy. “Given the uncomfortable economic situation, there is no luxury of debating details. Top Congress leaders trust Chidambaram’s ability to deal with it,” said a senior party leader.
Though Sonia Gandhi and the party fully backed Chidambaram through the crisis, the court proceedings have acted as a speed-breaker. In the coming days, one can expect more aggression and unanimity in the top leadership of the government in economic policy making, which will be driven solely by Chidambaram. Therefore, Chidambaram’s exoneration by the highest court of the land is good news not only for him personally and the UPA politically, but also for the economy.